Thermal Properties
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Thermal Properties

Water also has some physical properties relating to heat that add to its usefulness as a biological solvent.

Heat Capacity

For one thing, it has an unusually high specific heat, or heat capacity. Heat capacity, you should remember, is the amount of heat or the number of calories required to raise the temperature of one gram of that substance by one degree Celsius. Water's high heat capacity means that is can absorb or lose a relatively large amount of heat without undergoing a large change in temperature. Since many biological functions will not take place outside a narrow range of temperatures, water's ability to absorb and lose heat without a large temperature change provides an organism with a protection against the ill effects of a large external temperature change. Another way to say this is that large amount of water in our bodies stabilizes the temperature of our bodies.
Heat Capacity
water 1.0
CCl4 0.2
diethyl ether 0.6
ethanol 0.6
acetone 0.5
benzene 0.4

Heat of Vaporization

Water also has a very large heat of vaporization. You should remember that the heat of vaporization is the amount of heat necessary to vaporize or evaporate one gram of liquid water. We use this high heat of vaporization to cool off on a hot day. When we perspire, the evaporating water absorbs about 540 calories of heat from the body for each gram of water that evaporates. This transfer of heat provides an effective means of cooling our bodies.
Heat of Vaporization
water 540
CCl4 50
diethyl ether 90
ethanol 210
acetone 130
benzene 130


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